26 to 30 March 2012 Tech Universe Digest

Only two of the daily Tech Universe were published this week.

Tech Universe: Monday 26 March 2012

  • SOCCER ON THE SEA: Real Madrid may be best known for soccer but their Resort Island located in the UAE will garner some attention too. The billion dollar holiday resort is due to open in 2015 and will include sports facilities, a stadium, a fun park and hotels. But the big news is that the 430,000 square metre facility is to be built on an artificial island. With rising sea levels, I sure hope it floats. Real Madrid.
  • 1 TRILLION IN 1: Seagate are using heat-assisted magnetic recording to squash 1 trillion bits into a single square inch of a hard drive. Extremely precise lasers raise the temperature of an iron alloy substrate on a disk to about 650 degrees Kelvin in less than a nanosecond. This reduces magnetic interference, so data can be packed in more tightly than usual. Before long Seagate should be able to release 3.5″ discs that can store 60 terabytes of data. Remember the days when they needed a forklift for a 5 Mb hard drive? Wired. 5 Mb hard drive on a forklift.
  • DOTTY GLOVES: Researchers at Duke University have a process that can dynamically change the texture of polymers at will. By applying a specific voltage to a polymer film they can create or remove creases or craters in the film. This means they can cause patterns such as dots, segments, lines and circles to appear or disappear. Possible future uses could include gloves whose fingertips can be tuned to suit climbing or gripping, self-cleaning surfaces or drug delivery. It could be rather interesting if made to be touch sensitive too. Duke University.
  • INWARD LOOKING: NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, known as NuSTAR, is being launched soon. The mission will deploy the first focusing telescopes to image the sky in the high energy X-ray region of the electromagnetic spectrum. The big difference here is that previous telescopes haven’t been able to change focus. NuSTAR will look for collapsed stars and black holes near the centre of our galaxy. It will also check out young supernova remnants and some extreme active galaxies. X marks the focus. NASA.
  • IN A SPIN: The Permoveh, or Personal Mobile Vehicle, from Kyoto University is an unusual wheelchair — it moves sideways or obliquely as easily as forwards and backwards. The omnidirectional wheels include rollers that move at 90 degrees to the main direction of travel, making sideways movements as easy as going forwards. Clever, but it does rather resemble a tank. Kyodo News.

Tech Universe: Friday, 30 March 2012

  • ON YOUR BIKE: If your bicycle seat is low enough to easily mount the bike or put your feet down when stopped then it’s almost certainly too low for pedalling. Elev8Bikes solve this problem with a seat you can raise and lower, even while riding. The seat post is split and the seat is attached only to the top bar, hinged near the handlebar. The rider presses an actuator button on the handlebar to raise and lower the entire seat and top-tube with a gas pump. This should boost the number of casual cyclists deterred by problems getting on and off the bike. Elev8Bikes.
  • GLUE HIGH: Steel and concrete are used in tall buildings because they’re strong. But they’re not very environmentally friendly. That’s why one architect in Vancouver is aiming to make a 30 story building from wood, without using steel or concrete. The structure will use strands of wood glued together. The architect claims the building will lock in CO2, unlike cement that generates a lot of CO2 when it’s created. That glue had better have a lot of stickability. CNN.
  • THE JELLIES ARE COMING: Researchers from the US have developed a robotic jellyfish, the Robojelly, powered by hydrogen and oxygen in water. 2 bell-like structures made of silicone fold like an umbrella. Artificial muscles made of carbon nanotubes, platinum and a nickel-titanium alloy contract when heated. When a mix of hydrogen and oxygen meets the platinum it generates heat and water vapour. That heat moves the muscles, pumps out water and starts the process again. The device could be used for military surveillance or water monitoring. Or a lava lamp revolution. University of Texas at Dallas.
  • PERFECT HARMONY: The National Ignition Facility in the USA generates nearly 100 times more energy than any other laser in operation. Recently the facility’s 192 lasers fired in perfect unison, to deliver a record 1.875 million joules of ultraviolet laser light to the target chamber. The shaped pulse of energy was a mere 23 billionths of a second long but it generated 411 trillion watts of peak power. The ultimate goal is to achieve fusion ignition. Brief but bright. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
  • COLD INTERNET: The Internet just has to go through — this time via undersea fibre optic cables through the Arctic between Europe and Japan. The new cable routes are some 8,000 Km shorter than current overland routes. As the cable goes past Canada it’ll bring Internet to some remote communities that have had to rely on satellite until now. The new undersea cables have become possible because of reduced ice in the Arctic. One problem though is that the cable-laying ships aren’t designed for Arctic waters, meaning additional support vessels will be needed. Going where no cable has gone before. Discovery News.

Notes: I write a Tech Universe column for the NZ Herald. This is a fun assignment: Tech Universe brings 5 headlines each day about what’s up in the world of technology. Above are the links from last week as supplied. The items that were published in The Herald may differ slightly.

While I find all the items interesting, some are just cooler than others. I’ve marked out those items.